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The Latest: Turkey says Kurdish referendum plans illegal

By: Associated Press
September 22, 2017 Updated: September 22, 2017 at 2:42 pm
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photo - This image made from video provided by Kurdistan 24 shows an Iraqi tank moving into position as forces begun the operation to retake the town of Hawija, Iraq from the Islamic State group Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Prime minister Haider al-Abadi says the operation began at dawn in a statement released by his office, just two days after Iraqi forces began an offensive against IS holdouts in Iraq's vast western Anbar province. (Kurdistan 24 via AP)
This image made from video provided by Kurdistan 24 shows an Iraqi tank moving into position as forces begun the operation to retake the town of Hawija, Iraq from the Islamic State group Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Prime minister Haider al-Abadi says the operation began at dawn in a statement released by his office, just two days after Iraqi forces began an offensive against IS holdouts in Iraq's vast western Anbar province. (Kurdistan 24 via AP) 

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on developments in Iraq (all times local):

21:00

Turkey's highest security body has branded as "illegal and unacceptable" plans by Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum on independence.

A statement issued after a three hour-long National Security Council meeting on Friday that was chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would exert its rights should Iraqi Kurds go ahead with the referendum despite Turkey's "warnings."

The statement did not spell out what steps Turkey would take but said it had rights emanating from international and bilateral agreements.

Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey's would never accept Iraq's breakup and would not refrain from taking steps to prevent it.

This week, the military launched previously unannounced military exercises near the border with Iraq as Turkey stepped up pressure on the Kurdish region to abandon the vote.

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7:45 p.m.

An Iraqi government spokesman says a delegation from the country's Kurdish region will travel to Baghdad ahead of the controversial referendum on Kurdish independence planned for Monday.

Saad al-Hadithi says Iraqi government officials are ready to meet the delegation Saturday, but the central government still rejects the referendum and its results.

The news comes amid growing pressure from the international community on Iraq's Kurdish leadership to delay the controversial vote and instead engage in talks.

Earlier on Friday the president of Iraq's Kurdish region said negotiations are still possible with the central government, but pledged the vote on support for independence would go ahead as planned.

In a statement released Thursday, the United Nations called for "structured dialogue and compromise supported by the international community" between the Kurdish region and Baghdad

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6:20 p.m.

The President of Iraq's Kurdish region says the controversial referendum on support for independence will go forward Monday, despite increasingly urgent calls from the international community to delay the vote.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands in Irbil on Friday, Masoud Barzani says the fight against the Islamic State group in partnership with the Iraqi military will "continue" despite the vote.

The comments follow a warning from the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that the vote could have a "potentially destabilizing" impact on the region.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces are continuing to clear the last pockets of territory that IS holds in Iraq.

Earlier this week, Iraqi forces launched anti-IS operations outside Kirkuk in Iraq's north as well as in western Anbar along the border with Syria.

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11:55 a.m.

The spokesman for Iraq's mostly Shiite paramilitary troops known as Popular Mobilization Forces says they have joined the battle against Islamic State group militants in the contested province of Kirkuk.

Ahmed al-Asadi says the Shiite militias were pushing west of the IS-held town of Hawija on Friday, following the formal launch of the operation to retake the area — one of the last extremist strongholds in Iraq — the previous day.

Plans to retake the town of Hawija there have been complicated by political wrangling among Iraq's disparate security forces. The town and the governorate are disputed between Baghdad and the northern Kurdish autonomous region, where a referendum on independence is scheduled to take place next week.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders are pressing ahead with the referendum, which Baghdad dismisses as illegal.

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